Trip 2017, Day 8: Juntos Estamos

What an incredible jam-packed final day we had in the Dominican Republic. Starting with Color War and then a tearful goodbye party, intense basketball game, and relaxing pool party, our 24 hours really spanned every possible activity and emotion.

The day started at the Sabaneta school for our COLOR WAR morning! While attempting to divide all the campers into four teams that were more or less even in terms of age and gender proved a complicated task, we managed to get around 18 campers on each team distributing team emblems (literally safety pins with a ribbon of their team color tied to it) in the process. As the Yellow Pinas, Purple Dragones, Red Fuego and Grey Tiburones circled up to cheer, it was obvious the campers could not be more pumped for the activities ahead.

Color War is always special because it embodies bringing a treasured Scatico tradition and sharing it with the Dominican campers, more than any other camp activity we do. Over the course of our three CIT trips we’ve worked to improve and fine-tune the Color War day so that it’s more fun than competitive, more structured and less chaotic. It’s incredible how much the campers look to the CITs for leadership, follow their example, and quickly pick up their energy and learn games they have never before played. A quick rundown of everything that went down:

First, Purple and Grey headed over to the basketball court to compete in a ping-pong relay (a favorite girls side Color War novelty where you balance a ping-pong ball on a racquet while your run) and 21 (a basketball shooting game). Simultaneously Red and Yellow gathered in the courtyard to take a stab at hoola hoop rotations (stolen from Scatico Olympics, here a team holds hands in a circle and in 5 minutes you see how many times a hoola hoop can be squiggled over their bodies and around the circle) and Hit the Penny (another novelty where you try to hit a puck some two feet away with a tennis ball). Then, the teams switched their game stations.

The second set of activities had Purple and Red first competing in Skippy Ball (easy for kids of all ages to play) and Yellow and Grey in a memorization game (some 15 objects were displayed in the middle of the room that the kids had 5 minutes to look at, and then they were covered with a towel and each team received a pen and paper to try and write down every object from under the blanket that they remembered). Then, the teams swapped activity stations yet again.

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Throughout the morning kids eagerly ran to the scoreboard to check the days’ progress, bragging to their friends about how well they did in this or that activity. Just as it’s so touching to watch older and younger campers work together on Color War teams at Scatico, the same was true of the Dominican campers. 14-year old boys encouraging 6 year-old girls as they attempted to shoot a basket; older girls taking the time to re-explain the rules of each game to younger boys too busy jumping around when things were initially explained. By 12:30 it was time to meet by the scoreboard and tally up totals. In an impressive morning sweep the Purple Dragones emerged victorious, winning every activity they participated in except one.  After bursting into cheers it was time for a quick “see you later” as everyone took a lunch break (and we quickly finished our picture book) before the afternoon’s goodbye party.

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Putting the final touches on the Scatico DREAM campamento book

At 2PM it was time to circle up in the courtyard for the last time. Kids trickled in, a few with their parents, and took seats under the shade of a giant tree as we prepared for presentations. Our poem readers went first, gathering with their designated CITs to re-practice the words they’d memorized in English the day before. Lining up in the center of the circle they all recited together a poem about appreciating both English and Spanish, and how with double the languages you can have double the fun.

Our completed shelves on display, we next presented our Scatico DREAM Campamento book, the giant picture book we wrote and drew to leave with the kids in their new school library. With 8 CITs volunteering to read it aloud in Spanish and English, we shared our words about the week: how our nervousness turned to excitement, how much we enjoyed all of the activities we participated in, and how the memories would last forever. After the read aloud the book quickly made its way around the circle, campers pouring over its pages and taking special time to soak in the last two pages filled with all the CIT’s signatures and Polaroids of the camp day pasted around it.

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Within an hour it was time to start the goodbye process. A difficult moment every summer, because unlike at Scatico we don’t know if and when we’ll get to see these campers again. Tears in their eyes kids rushed into the CIT’s arms for giant hugs, sharing notes and kind words to thank them for a week of fun. It’s hard to express how quickly bonds develop between us and the campers, how their smiles and eagerness at every activity stay with us, and how impactful the universality of camp can be.

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We loaded the bus for the last time, the campers standing below to shout and wave at us through the windows. But after a tearful ride into Los Brazos, it was time to pull it together: we had a basketball game to play.

Los Brazos, the neighborhood where Nuno and Adonis are from, is famed for its epic semi pickup/ semi planned basketball games. Nuno the star center, the Los Brazos team has even created coordinated uniforms (resembling the Golden State Warriors jersey but with “Los Brazos” emblazoned across the chest) and play nearly every day for two hours at a court (a “cancha”) located up a hill that by late afternoon gets plenty of breeze and shade. For the first time in the history of the CIT trip, we were ready to go head to head, the Los Brazos team maybe outmatching us in height and talent, but Scatico with a bench 20 people deep, and unparalleled spirit. Boys and girls CITs took turns rotating in and out of the game with Helfman as our captain (Moe deciding to be a traitor and playing with his “people” on team DR, much to our chagrin). Though comparisons to the Monstars vs. Looney Toons teams of Space Jam maaaay have been possible (Los Brazos alley-ooping and dunking as we struggled to hustle up and down the court in our mismatched Walmart tanks) we definitely held our own, with multiple CITs scoring impressive baskets. Losing in the end, we lined up for a “good game, good game” knowing we’d participated in a real authentic piece of Los Brazos culture, and happy we’d got to see Nuno in action.

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From la cancha it was straight to Blue Moon, a gorgeous and unique restaurant/ hotel located just up the road. Surrounded by the mountains and palms of Los Brazos we first enjoyed a dip in the Blue Moon pool, before sitting down for dinner. Originally founded by a German  and South African couple 24 years-ago, Blue Moon is one of the only Indian fusion restaurants on the DR’s North Coast, and its decor matches the cuisine. Diners eat on the floor of a giant pagoda/tent its edges lined with pink cushions and pillows to make the floor seating more comfortable. Food is then served on a giant palm leaf on the floor, where CIT’s were encouraged to mix their dipping sauces and use their right hand to eat. Exhausted from the long day we lounged on the cushions, scooping the rice, chicken and curried vegetables with our hands.

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The perfect setting for a moment of reflection, we took the opportunity to share our takeaways and thoughts on the trip. From appreciating a new culture, to taking stock of all the things we take for granted back home, to everything the campers taught us (patience, kindness, how to be happy with what you have) we know we’re leaving with hearts and minds fuller than when we got here. Each of the trip counselors spoke as well. Helfman urged us to appreciate how special it is to have this experience with our 29 best friends, reminding us why camp friends are the best friends and to never lose touch or lose this feeling. Moe commended us on our work with the kids, how quickly we formed those connections, and how to bring the same energy and attitude everywhere we go. Marie shared the beauty that comes when you “give just to give” not expecting anything in return, and encouraged us to take advantage of future trip opportunities that will be a “dime a dozen” come college. And Nicki reminded us of the power that can happen when we open our minds and eyes to new experiences and places, and the magic that happens when we use our time to “do” and “make”. Adonis also spoke, thanking us for traveling to and appreciating his country, and for taking the time to put smiles on kids’ faces.

When you actually add up all the time we physically spent with the campers, it only amounts to some 24 hours. One day. But wow, what a 24 hours. It’s a powerful reminder of the unlimited potential of a single day, of a day’s capacity for impact, adventure, and excitement. It doesn’t take a lot to leave a lasting impression or to make a difference. When you’re outside doing, exploring, playing, and giving, your days will feel so much longer, fuller, more rewarding, and complete. It’s a lesson that extends far beyond any service trip and into every aspect of our lives. Never underestimate what people can do even with limited resources and time, and know that worldwide more things connect than divide us.

 

 

 

 

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